A Father Without a Family: This last week I travelled to Russia for business, I have 5-6 trips there in the coming six months as we prepare for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Travelling such a distance I had plenty of time to delve into my mind and see what was rattling around. One thing I would like to do during these trips is meet with some single parents and compare notes on what their challenges are. It would be interesting to see what cultural or social differences there are (if any) between Russia and Australia in raising children as part of a broken family.
Consequently, today I want to talk about the kids. The little people in our lives that often face the brunt of mum and dad separating. The untold damage it does to their emotional wellbeing, the continual change to routine, and worse still, the fragmenting of relationships with their parents. So many adults get lost in their own selfish needs, whilst dealing with the ‘ex-whoever’, the children are either used as pawns, ignored, or left feeling disenfranchised from the family unit. For my family, and me, my son turned seven this week. For him it marks almost five years since his mum and I have been together. Every time they stay with me I see a frustrated little man who simply cannot understand why mum and dad cannot just love each other and make it all work. This presents a few challenges, the first being how do I explain it to him in context of his understanding of love, of relationships, and of the complexities of adulthood. To him they would mostly seem irrelevant, and I can see how he would form this opinion! I want my son (and my daughter) to grow up with their own sense of who they are, of unconditional love from both their mum and I. Ensuring we raise our children into active members of society is surely one of our greatest challenges in life.
My son has battled asthma from the early age of eighteen months. He has been hospitalised about half a dozen times, and now uses a preventer twice daily every single day. I would spend nights with him in hospital watching his heart rate go over 150 on more than one occasion. The helplessness you feel as a parent is indescribable, regardless of gender. To his mum’s credit, a chronic asthmatic herself, she has been very proactive in managing his asthma over his short life. He is a typical boy who loves sport, to ride his bike, to eat, and to generally cause havoc. However, he is also a young man who lives at a distance from his father. I have been trying to connect the dots in how to be a better father for him regardless of distance, and time spent face to face. In my mind I think that high-value time is what I can achieve when I do see him. But this means being highly organised and to a certain degree predicative. This runs contrary to my belief in spontaneity when it comes to having fun with kids and family. Am I trying to serve two masters? I love that my son is right on my hip when he is with me, I also love the fact that he is more than comfortable in playing with friends his own age. It’s all about the balance, and for my son it is all about love. Because of the weekend sporting arrangements I now get about 75 minutes alone with him whilst my daughter plays her sport. My intention is to allow him to choose how to spend that time with dad. He is a different boy when he is alone with me…
My beautiful girl is growing up too fast! Almost nine, she is turning into a very smart, emotional, and caring human being. I have let my guard down in front of my kids more than once over the past 4-5 years, and although I do regret it in some ways, it was so heart warming to see my kids support me when I needed it. Watching their dad have a melt-down is probably not in any parenting book, but the bond I have with those kids was definitely cemented in those times. I now see my daughter reaching the next stage in her life, her comments on life in general are expanding, her understanding of society is also growing, all of which is fantastic. It is often said that a daughters first love is her dad, and that forever more a girl always compares the love of her dad to that of what her partner can offer. The unconditional love a parent has for their children is very hard to duplicate…
I now take time with her alone each Saturday night she is here after my son has gone to sleep. It is only an hour, but it is that hour that I dedicate to her and her only. She chooses the activity we do, even if that is watching a movie, or doing some research for her school assignment. I think it reminds her that I am here for her too, not just the ‘kids’ as a pair.
I certainly don’t have any answers; I only have my experience, the good and the bad. This is a journey, not only for their mum, and myself, but for my children as well. Compromising time with them because of a disagreement with their mum or dad is simply selfish. We get one shot at raising these kids, one shot to give them a supportive, loving environment to grow into the beautiful people we all know our kids can be. Find me an excuse not to deliver this, find me a reason not to make this of the highest priority in life. You wont….